DANGERS of consuming sugar have been further investigated in a new study, which indicated that a person’s metabolism may be adversely affected with even moderate consumption of sugar. Consumption of specific sugar types may increase fat production in the liver, leading to the development of fatty liver disease and Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Excess sugar intake remains highly prevalent in many countries. The average person in the UK consumes 93.2 g of sugar per day, despite guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), which advise that people eat no more than 5% of their daily calories from added sugars; this is approximately 25 g.
Between 2013 and 2016, the team of researchers from the Medical University of Graz, Austria, and the University of Zurich, Switzerland, enrolled 94 healthy male participants aged 18–30 years old with moderate BMI (<24 kg/m2). Exclusion criteria included males over a certain weight (reducing the risk of recruiting people with already-developed increased liver fat content), individuals who already consumed sugar-sweetened beverages daily, or males who logged >3 hours of physical activity per week. According to the authors, females were not included “as there is evidence for divergent metabolic effects of fructose on male and female subjects.”
Study participants were required to abstain from sweetened drinks for 4 weeks. One group continued avoiding sweetened drinks beyond 4 weeks for the duration of the study while three other groups were invited to ingest beverages sweetened with fructose, sucrose, or glucose three times, totalling 80 g of each sugar type, daily. Tracers were used to identify the effects of the sugar.
The results showed that the groups did not consume more calories than prior to the study; this may be due in part to increased satiety from the drinks, suggested the authors. The sugary drinks, however, were reported to impact overall health: participants who consumed beverages sweetened with fructose had fat production twice as high as those who drank beverages sweetened with glucose and those who did not consume sweetened drinks. This was true for more than 12 hours after the last meal or sugar consumption. Sucrose is the sugar type consumed most by humans and was shown in this study to enhance fat synthesis slightly more than fructose, contradicting the broadly understood notion that fructose usually causes this increased fat synthesis.
Dr Philipp Gerber, University of Zurich, said: “Our results are a critical step in researching the harmful effects of added sugars and will be very significant for future dietary recommendations.”